Europe’s film studio titans
The European film and TV production business is booming, so here’s a look at what ten of Europe’s top studios have been up to in the last few months.
Rising demand for high-end TV series and franchise film productions, together with improved industry incentives and experience of crews across Europe, have helped drive projects to the continent’s biggest studio facilities.
Pinewood Studios (pictured above) is now a global business with sites in the US, Canada, Dominican Republic and Malaysia. The UK continues to be its key market, with three sites at Pinewood and Shepperton near London and a smaller, newer facility in Wales.
In February 2016, the flagship studio at Iver Heath confirmed that Star Wars: Episode VIII had started filming with a view to a December 2017 launch. The studio also said that Phase One of its expansion plan was on schedule, with five new large sound stages due to open in June 2016.
Pinewood Group is currently undergoing a financial review to see if its growth ambitions might be best served by selling to a third party. Its major shareholder is Peel Group (71.1%), which also owns MediaCityUK. UK media put a price tag of £350m on the group.
Warner Bros. Studios at Leavesden was made famous by the Harry Potter franchise and also hosted Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (pictured right), a story set in the Harry Potter universe in the early 20th century.
Given that the studio is now owned by Warner Bros., the US giant has used Leavesden as a UK production base for shoot like Edge of Tomorrow (pictured below) and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, both starring Tom Cruise, and Ron Howard’s survival drama In the Heart of the Sea.
Titanic Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been kept busy by HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones for the last few years. In 2014 it was given planning approval for two new film studios providing an additional 100,000 sq ft of facilities.
This expansion, along with plans for another new £10m complex called North Foreshore Film Studios, is part of a bid to make Northern Ireland a major force in international filmmaking. This is something the region is yet to achieve, despite the success of Game of Thrones.
Studio Babelsberg is located near the German capital Berlin. While certainly a world-class facility, it’s had a turbulent few years due in part to Germany’s limited filming incentive programme and the scale of international competition.
In late 2015, construction work began on a new backlot set that will soon be operational. Four streets are being created under the name of Neue Berliner Straße for use in film, TV and commercial productions. The first project to use the backlot will be Tom Tykwer’s much-anticipated German-language series Babylon Berlin, while the studio’s other recent credits include Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, action movie The Lake and biopic Eddie the Eagle.
Studio Babelsberg has also hosted a season of Homeland and the ten-part Paramount TV spy series Berlin Station, underlining a trend among high-end studios to attract event TV productions. In March 2016, it revealed its profit for 2015 was $5.6 million, a big improvement on recent years.
Cite du Cinema Studios de Paris is in Saint-Denis around ten minutes from the centre of Paris. Opened in 2012 and supported by French filmmaker Luc Besson, it has nine hi-tech stages, along with a wide variety of digital and post-production facilities. To date it has hosted numerous feature films such as the Besson-produced Taken sequels and Lucy, which became the most successful film in French history, as well as his new film Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.
Another high-profile project has been Natalie Portman’s Jackie (pictured above), which recreated the interior of the White House to tell the story of Jackie Kennedy’s experiences following the assassination of her husband, John F Kennedy, in 1963.
Studios de Paris is expected to benefit from positive changes to France’s film incentive regime as French productions may be more likely to stay at home instead of going to Germany or Belgium. The facility is generally targeting medium budget movies and high-end event TV series.
Cinecitta Studios in Rome was founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini. The 99-acre studio complex has seen a significant improvement in recent years thanks to an improved tax incentive regime in Italy.
High-profile Hollywood titles to come through the studio since 2014 include mountaineering drama Everest, Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2 and a remake of Ben-Hur (pictured left) that saw pre-Roman Jerusalem built on the Cinecitta backlot for a four-month shoot.
In 2015, increased work translated into a turnover of €48m. New projects include Paolo Sorrentino’s international TV production The Young Pope, starring Jude Law and Diane Keaton. In addition to film and TV, commercials are also returning to Cinecitta. A key benefit of the improved incentive regime is that domestic productions are less inclined to film elsewhere in Europe.
Korda Studios in Hungary has been a popular choice for filmmakers thanks to a combination of tax incentives, low-cost crews and quality infrastructure.
A state-of-the-art film studio complex located 30 km west of Budapest, Korda offers six sound stages, as well as standing back lot sets of New York and the Renaissance and medieval periods of history. Recent credits include Ron Howard’s Dan Brown follow-up Inferno, selected scenes for The Martian and the Netflix series Marco Polo, as well as the BBC’s historical drama The Last Kingdom.
Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria has emerged as a force to be reckoned with over the last few years, offering 13 sound stages, a ten-acre backlot and various other production services.
The facillity in capital city Sofia has developed a specialty hosting action films like 300 and its sequel 300: Rose of an Empire, The Expendables and The Way Back.
For Gerard Butler's action sequel London Has Fallen (pictured right), streets and buildings were constructed to create the atmosphere of central London, including a full-size set of St Paul’s Cathedral entrance and steps.
Barrandov Studios is a famous set of film studios in the Czech capital Prague. Built in the 1930s, it is now home to 14 purpose-built stages.
Historically, Barrandov has hosted productions like Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Brothers Grimm, while more recent shoots have been led by Underworld: Blood Wars, the latest instalment in the fantasy horror series. The studios have benefited from the expansion of a national film incentive though it is not as far-reaching as some of the new programmes available across western Europe.
AED Studios in Antwerp, Belgium, is one of the largest state-of-the-art complexes in Europe with 16,500 sq m of studio space, green screen facilities and one of the largest water tank stages in Europe. Against a backdrop of generous tax incentives, it has hosted numerous projects including Grace of Monaco, The Fifth Estate, The Lake and TV series The White Queen.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them / Edge of Tomorrow images: Warner Bros
Jackie image: Protozoa Pictures
Ben-Hur image: Paramount Pictures
London Has Fallen image:Jack English / Focus Features